Eye can't ignore what you're saying: Varying the reliability of gaze and language

Ross MacdonaldUniversity of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom
Benjamin TatlerUniversity of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland, United Kingdom

Abstract

Gaze cues quickly orient attention, but language can affect the extent to which we follow these cues (Macdonald & Tatler, 2013). We investigated how reliability of language and gaze cues affect attention. Participants, provided with gaze and verbal cues, selected one of two potential targets and received immediate feedback. Different combinations of gaze and language reliabilities (50%, 80%, 100%) were used across nine sessions. The most reliable cue available informed participants’ decisions. Language was favoured when reliability was equal and cues incongruent. When language cues were 100% reliable, incongruent gaze cues had a larger detrimental effect on performance when they were 80% reliable compared to 50%. When gaze cues were 100% reliable, there was an overall detrimental effect of unreliable language, with performance slower when language was 50% reliable compared to 80%. We conclude that language cues are favoured and cause disruption when unreliable, even when superfluous to the task.

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